For Second Time In 16 Months Montclair Fills Council Vacancy With Family Member

For the second time in 17 months, the city council in Montclair has elected to fill a vacancy within its ranks occasioned by the death or declining health of one of its members with a family member of the departed office holder.
Corysa Martinez will assume, at least until December 2020, the role her late mother, Trish Martinez, filled since her 2014 election to the city council. Trish Martinez died in September, just five months after her April cancer diagnosis and ten months after her November 2018 reelection.
The appointment process concluded this week is operative until there is a determination of official outcome for a special election corresponding to the November 3, 2020 General Presidential election to select an individual to serve the final two years on Trish Martinez’s term in office. Trish Martinez was reelected in November 2018 to a four-year term ending in 2022. Corysa Martinez is to fill the gap on the council until after the November 2020 special election, one specified for a two-year term, is held. Corysa Martinez has implied that she will likely run in that election. Also to be contested in November 2020 will be the council positions currently held by councilwoman Carolyn Raft and Tenice Johnson. Those races will involve four-year terms.
This is the second year in a row that Montclair experienced an unanticipated vacancy on its council. In 2018, after an extended period of infirmity, then-Mayor Paul Eaton resigned and died shortly thereafter. In the aftermath of his departure, the council appointed his wife, Virginia “Ginger” Eaton, to replace him as mayor, a term which lasted five months, as the regularly scheduled mayor’s race took place in November, in which longtime council members John Dutrey and Carolyn Raft vied against one another.
Until last year, Montclair had been among the most politically stable of San Bernardino County’s 24 municipalities, with very little changeover on the council for two decades and only minor controversy with regard to governance issues in the same timeframe. Eaton’s resignation, however, precipitated an uncommon degree of rivalry, albeit only with regard to relatively superficial issues, among the council’s members. Dutrey and Raft, who had a cooperative and cordial relationship on the city council going back nearly two decades during Paul Eaton’s tenure as mayor, were transformed into political rivals with the advent of the 2018 election season, which featured charges that Dutrey or his political team had engaged in misrepresentation and sign stealing.
After Dutrey’s victory, differences emerged among the council members over how the vacancy created on the council brought on by Dutrey’s resignation from his council post to accede to the position of mayor would be filled. On the distaff side, both Raft and Martinez wanted to appoint Ginger Eaton to assume Dutrey’s former place on the council dais for the next two years. Dutrey and Councilman Bill Ruh favored holding a special election to decide the question. For Ruh, twice appointing Ginger Eaton to the council without her having run for the office, while there were multiple residents who had sought election previously, seemed inappropriate. Moreover, he asserted, the city’s residents were entitled to choose the city’s political leadership.
Raft and Martinez conversely argued that an election would represent an unnecessary city expense, and that Eaton had proven a good fit with the council.
Ultimately, early this year a compromise, of sorts, was worked out, with the council agreeing to make an appointment. Ultimately, a field of applicants that included several former city council candidates and others who had evinced an interest in civic involvement were interviewed by the council. Tenice Johnson, the city’s planning commission chairman, was ultimately chosen.
The appointment of Corysa Martinez, 29, to fill in for her mother on the council was not subjected to contravention on terms relating to her qualifications. An attorney with her own practice in Upland, Martinez has long had an interest in politics and local government, as well as specific knowledge about issues before the city council as a consequence of her constant interaction with her mother.
There was nevertheless some degree of resistance to the concept of replacing Trish Martinez, as was the case with Paul Eaton, with a family member. More pointedly, Councilman Ruh said he felt the council should stand by the principle it had committed to when its members had agreed to make Johnson’s appointment in declaring that further vacancies would be resolved with an election.
Considered along with Corysa Martinez were 11 others, including:
*  Virginia Eaton, who in addition to formerly serving as appointed mayor, was the director of the Wignall Museum at Chaffey College and a board member of the Montclair Hospital Medical Center during her 54 years as a Montclair resident.
*  David Schroeder, a five-plus year resident of the city and a facilities/operations manager and conservation specialist for the Chino Basin Water Conservation District.
*  Rosa Rangel, a florist and a 31-year resident and member of the Community Activities Commission.
*  Postal worker Anna Marie Salaiz, a 28-year resident.
*  Financial consultant Donald Alexander, a 13-year resident.
*  2018 mayoral candidate Sousan Elias, an 8-year Montclair resident and proprietor of the Dragon’s Tale Brewery and her own notary service.
*  DSV Solutions inventory manager George RJ Tellez, who has coached Montclair Little League and Golden Girls Fast Pitch Softball teams, been a member of the Community Action Committee and has lived in Montclair for more than a quarter of a century.
*  Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Edgar Gallegos, a 4-year resident.
*  Credit union employee Bruce Culp, a 6-year resident.
*  Ontario-Montclair School District payroll manager Juliet Orozco, an 18-year city resident who has previously run for city council.
*  Notary public Benjamin Lopez, a 42-year Montclair resident, who has twice run for city council, is politically active and whose father, Tony Lopez, is a board member with the Monte Vista Water District. Benjamin Lopez said he would again seek election to the council in 2020.
-Mark Gutglueck

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